This morning I am very much alive. I’m getting in my morning run, doing a little strength work and planning my next travel ventures. Still, that mental nudge comes every now and then. It says, “Be kind to your family. Make those decisions about burial, the remains of your days.”
Since the early days of the pandemic, I’ve had a folder from a nearby green burial cemetery on my desk. It is, to my way of thinking, the most practical and reasonable burial. Still, I procrastinate.
For many women my age, who follow their religious traditions, the how, when and where of burial are, to a high degree, determined.
For many others, it is a matter of family tradition. You may choose to follow that tradition and be buried with the last several generations of your family in the same cemetery or crypt.
But what of for those of us who have drifted around this globe, lived in a variety of regions and have family members who have done the same? Is there any one best option?
More and more, individuals and families have moved toward cremation. I have attended ceremonies for friends whose remains are in a designated church wall or garden. Other times I have watched as friends lovingly scattered ashes from a boat on the ocean, over a meadow and across a much-loved hiking trail of the deceased. In this article, USA Today outlines the pros and cons of cremation.
And then, there is green burial. I first heard of this perhaps 20 years ago, when a Funeral Consumers Alliance gave an informational presentation at my church. Information and availability on green burial has expanded since then.
I did an internet search and found a number of sites, one of which is a cemetery reasonably close to my current home. And that is how I come to have the folder on my desk, nagging me to either take some action or put that folder in the paper recycling and by default, leave the decision to my family.
Also referred to as natural burial, everything placed in the ground for a burial must be non-toxic and biodegradable. A shroud made from a biodegradable cloth (usually silk, linen or wool) is wrapped around the body. A casket is optional. If used, most are wood, wool, bamboo or seagrass.
There are more specific requirements that must be met to be certified by the Green Burial Council. The link has more detailed information as well as an interactive map of certified green burial sites in the USA and Canada. I would expect there are similar organizations and cemeteries in other countries.
Generally, green cemeteries are located in wooded areas where burial locations blend in with the natural setting.
As it happens, this green cemetery near me is located adjacent to a greenway path I have run, biked and walked over the years. Only non-quarried or river rock are used for headstones, if in fact you want one.
Burial plots are located in a wooded area. After burial, non-invasive ground cover or bushes are planted on the gravesite so the site remains as natural as possible.
Overall, the cost of the traditional burialis the more expensive, both economically and environmentally. The article above speaks to the differences between cremation and burial.
This article in Business Insider does a general overview of the economic and environmental impact of different types of burial and cremation.
In the end, costs, both environmental and economic, may be a consideration, but so is what feels right for you and for your family. As for me, writing this article has me leaning more closely toward taking another look at a future plot in the woods, then heading off to the nearby running path to celebrate my decision.
Do you have strong feelings about this final earthly decision? Did you consider it along with your will and other documents? Does your family already know about your wishes?